Tyrann Mathieu

Le'Veon Bell tweets at NFL free agents to create Warriors-like super team


Le'Veon Bell tweets at NFL free agents to create Warriors-like super team

Le'Veon Bell tweeted at a handful of fellow soon-to-be NFL free agents -- and one who already is -- on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for someone to invoke the Warriors.

Specifically, Bell hit up free-agent safeties Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Earl Thomas and Eric Weddle.

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams then replied to the Pittsburgh Steelers running back (for now), and joked that Bell was trying to emulate Golden State.

Bell, of course, embraced the comparison.

Adams quote-tweeted Bell with the requisite eyes emoji, so you know he's down for the Jets getting their own version of the "Hamptons Five." But, the cross-sport comparison falls a bit flat here.

Although the Hamptons are located much closer to the Jets' home turf than the Warriors' home court, this collection of free agents wouldn't necessarily comprise a super team. There's a lot of positional redundancy, as Collins, Mathieu, Thomas, Weddle and Adams himself all are safeties themselves. Sure, they could each conceivably play different positions in the defensive backfield, but it'd be kind of like the Warriors signing Kevin Durant plus two more starting small forwards in the summer of 2016.

Then again, if one franchise is going to bring that level of ... uh, innovation ... to the NFL, it would be the New York Jets.

[RELATED: Bogut 'kind of blown away' by how Warriors recruited him]

Could Bell find himself very close to the home of the actual "Hamptons Five," at least for one season? Although Adams' Jets are the rumored favorites, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller identified the Raiders as "the team to watch" to secure the star running back's signature.

Oh, and did we mention the Silver and Black could use some safety help?

Raiders can address safety position through loaded NFL free-agent class

Raiders can address safety position through loaded NFL free-agent class

The Raiders need some safety help. Karl Joseph is expected to lock down one spot but needs a partner pretty badly.

Reggie Nelson and Marcus Gilchrist aren’t expected back, leaving a void at the free safety spot the Silver and Black can fill in several different ways.

They can attack the position via the NFL draft, with restricted free agent Erik Harris expected back as an experienced option should a young player not be ready.

Or … the Raiders could jump on an ever-expanding free-agent market loaded with talented veterans.

Eric Weddle joined it yesterday after Baltimore released him. Landon Collins is set for it after the New York Giants didn’t franchise tag him.

They’re now part of a loaded free-agent class that including Earl Thomas, Adrian Amos, LaMarcus Joyner, Tyrann Mathieu, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro.

Adding a veteran presence to a young secondary that includes presumptive starters in Joseph and cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley -- he’s expected to return via restricted free agency -- would help keep the group operating well.

Weddle told The Athletic he plans to take some free-agent visits this week, and possibly sign -- players cut can sign with new teams right away -- before unrestricted free agency begins for those on expiring contracts on March 13.

[RELATED: How Raiders should handle pass rushers in free agency]

The Raiders were interested in Weddle back in 2015, the last time he was on the free-agent market. That was a different time with different decision makers, so it’s uncertain how Jon Gruden views him, but there’s no doubting Weddle can still be an impactful player and leader on the back end -- even at age 34.

There are younger options available who can play deep safety, and their talent and market price will be compared to draft-eligible options in the early and middle rounds.

Collins is a popular name, but should cost a pretty penny and is known as a box safety. The Raiders need someone with versatility, especially someone comfortable playing deep.

A ball hawk is needed and Thomas is the best in the group, but could be prohibitively expensive considering his injury history. Mathieu is another attractive option who might be too costly to realistically acquire.

Amos is an excellent player worthy of strong consideration. He’s only 26 and has solid all-around skills, even though his interception count hasn’t been high.

Clinton-Dix is another serviceable option who can help on the back end.

The glut of free agents could drive the price down for some, making someone just below the top flight affordable and attractive to a Raiders team looking to get younger while adding some leadership to the defensive side.

Raiders should add dynamic, ballhawk safety in free agency or NFL draft


Raiders should add dynamic, ballhawk safety in free agency or NFL draft

Editor's note: The Raiders season isn't over, but we'll keep one eye on the future with our weekly series on the team's biggest needs heading into 2019 and how voids can be filled best. This week's focus is on the secondary.

The Raiders are still trying to add to their secondary, even heading into Week 17.

Oakland recently tried to pick up embattled safety D.J. Swearinger up on waivers. Washington cut the talented, yet opinionated feather-ruffler after he criticized coaching after a loss to Tennessee on Dec. 22, but the Raiders’ high waiver priority still wasn’t good enough to get him.

The Arizona Cardinals have the top waiver spot in the NFL with their 3-12 record, and snatched up a Pro Bowl alternate with an affordable 2019 salary.

It’s also a sign that, despite improved safety play of late, the Raiders are still looking to upgrade the position.

While other stories in this series focusing on Raiders offseason needs have focused on complete overhauls, the Silver and Black could use one dynamic upgrade to compliment what they already have. A ball hawk, in particular, would help this group.

They didn’t seem to have much early in the year, but Karl Joseph’s emergence has changed that opinion. The team’s 2016 first-round pick has added aggressiveness in the box and on the back end, and has played well as a roving chess piece. He has become a three-down player, and has impressed a coaching staff unsure about him as this regular season began.

Erik Harris and Marcus Gilchrist have been solid and versatile, but another ball-hawking talent could upgrade a strong, young and promising Raiders secondary.

Let’s take a look at this Raiders need, and how it can be filled in 2019:

Players likely to stay in 2019

Karl Joseph: The Raiders were shopping the West Viriginia alum around the trade deadline, and they’re probably happy they didn’t deal him. Joseph has played far better in recent weeks, with physical play that was his trademark in college. He has been an impactful pass rusher, with an ability to play the run well without being a liability in coverage. He isn’t the tallest defensive back, but he’s serviceable in coverage and should step in at strong safety, allowing the Raiders to focus on solving more pressing problems.

Erik Harris: The third-year pro is a restricted free agent this offseason after getting his first opportunity to play extended defensive snaps. That total has gone up, and he has had some good moments in reserve or part of a rotation. He could be impactful in a similar role next season as well. Assuming, of course, his market remains low and the Raiders can retain him.

Dallin Leavitt: The undrafted rookie spent most of this season on the practice squad, before getting promoted last week. He should get a chance to compete for a roster spot next offseason.

Players likely to go

Marcus Gilchrist: The veteran defensive back pulled in roughly $4.5 million on a one-year deal, but will re-enter the open market next spring. He’s a solid field general and has good moments, but he might be allowed to leave for an draft pick or higher-priority free agent to take his spot. Gilchrist’s versatility is as asset, as we saw last week when he primarily played slot cornerback after manning the safety spots all year.

Reggie Nelson: The 35-year old played a lot early in the year, but struggled as the season wore on and ended up on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, and isn’t expect back for a third contract with the Raiders.

Raiders potential offseason plan

Free agency: There’s an intriguing free-agent class ready to hit the market. Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner and Seattle’s Early Thomas will headline the group, though Joyner could be too pricey and Thomas might cost a pretty penny in addition to having some injury concerns.

Tyrann Mathieu won’t be cheap, but could bring the versatility required to assist at several different spots. It seems likely he stays in Houston.

Ha Ha Clinton Dix is another quality option and only 26, though Washington gave Green Bay a fourth round pick to rent him. One would imagine Washington would want to keep him, but a pricey contract offer could pry him away if he reaches the market. He’s a guy the Raiders could go after if they’re willing to spend on a safety and provide a veteran’s presence in an otherwise young secondary and put a larger body back there with Joseph.

Draft: Alabama safety Deionte Thompson has ideal size and speed as a patroller on the back end, and is frequently considered the best safety available. He’s the ballhawk the Raiders are looking for, seemingly a perfect fit. He could be had in the 20s, with one of the team’s extra first-round picks. Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a versatile piece who can play deep or in the slot. The Raiders like guys like that, and could get him in the second round. Miami’s Jaquan Johnson is also a highly-touted safety who can play in the box.

Washington’s Taylor Rapp and Delaware’s Nasir Adderley are also options who could be found outside the first round.

Bottom line: The Raiders need volume at several spots, but have some safeties already in the mix who could stay there in 2019. Adding a solid free safety, a good communicator who can intercept passes, seems like a necessity this time around. The NFL draft might provide some better and cheaper options to add to a young safety. An established free agent could, however, add veteran leadership to the group.

Take a look at other positions the Raiders must upgrade this offseason, as examined in our weekly series: 

Edge rushers: https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/raiders/why-raiders-should-look-edge-rushers-free-agency-2019-nfl-draft

Recievers: https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/raiders/raiders-must-use-2019-nfl-draft-free-agency-overhaul-wide-receiver-corps

Middle linebackers: https://www.nbcsports.com/bayarea/raiders/raiders-must-find-long-term-middle-linebacker-2019-free-agency-nfl-draft